10-06-2024 10:34

Will the EU elections derail the Green Deal?

With the far right making gains in the recent EU elections, questions have arisen about the impact on the Green Deal, the set of policies designed to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. Marco Kisic, Head of ESG Research, shares what to expect.
European union flag against parliament in Brussels

EU citizens have now voted to elect a new European Parliament. Preliminary results show an outcome fairly in line with the polls. The Green and centrists Renew Europe lost the most seats, while the centre-right and especially nationalist parties were the main gainers. Yet centrist parties will keep the majority, also thanks to strong results of the largest party, Ursula von der Leyen’s centre-right European People’s Party (EPP). 

Climate policy is one of the areas that could be most affected by the rightward shift, according to Marco Kisic, Head of ESG Research within Nordea’s Equities division.

Based on the parties’ manifestos, climate is the main priority for left-leaning parties and remains relevant for the centre right, but is less of a concern for right-wing populist parties. 

Most parties agree on developing the social and industrial components of the EU Green Deal, especially in the context of supporting competitiveness, and all emphasise the need for new investments. But climate will likely compete with new priorities.

“Climate-related issues will likely remain central, but EU policymaking could become more selective and geared towards citizen preferences,” Kisic says.

Marco Kisic, Head of ESG Research, Nordea

Explainer: What did EU citizens vote for?

Three political institutions hold the legislative and executive power in the EU: the Council (representing governments), the Parliament (representing citizens) and the Commission (representing European interests). Typically, in the legislative process, the Commission proposes a new piece of legislation and presents it to the Council and the Parliament, which have to agree on its final form and sign off on it for it to become law. The Commission then needs to ensure its implementation.

On 6-9 June, EU citizens voted in a new Parliament, a process that takes place every five years. The new Parliament will elect a new Commission President and then approve the 27 members of the Commission. The current president – Ursula von der Leyen, the main driver of the EU green agenda – remains the favourite, but the coalition she will pursue and the agenda she and the other candidates will propose to run on will provide more insights on the role of climate in the new legislative term.

Which policies do European citizens prefer?

Based on citizen surveys, voting patterns of EU parliamentarians and conversations with experts, Kisic expects renewables and clean technologies to remain a priority for the EU, probably with broader support for nuclear energy. 

On the other hand, he sees measures restricting fossil fuel cars and building heating systems as the most at risk of dilution.

Source: Jacques Delors Centre, 2024

The Renovation directive (the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, or EPBD) is also a highly divisive policy, but the ESG Research team expects it to remain firmly in place, though perhaps somewhat modified.

One big outstanding question is around a joint EU investment plan. With most parties focused on economic competitiveness, coming up with an effective plan to keep up with US and Chinese cleantech strategies should be a top priority for the new leadership, Kisic argues. That’s particularly true, given the funding cliff the EU faces at the end of 2026 when the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the joint EU COVID-19 recovery fund, expires. 

“Many voices are calling for a new round of joint EU funding dedicated to green industrialisation,” he explains. “It’s difficult at this stage to foresee whether the new leadership will have the appetite or ability to achieve a compromise on this sensitive issue.” 

How did Europeans vote?

The biggest losers in the EU elections were the Greens and centrists Renew Europe. The centre-left coalition (S&D, Greens, Left) now holds 32% of seats, down from 36%. The far-right parties were the largest in France, Italy, Austria and second largest in Germany and Netherlands. Yet, centrist parties will keep the majority, thanks to the strong results of the largest party, Ursula von der Leyen’s centre-right EPP. Her centrist coalition (EPP, RE, S&D) now holds 56% of seats, down from 59%, yet the addition of Greens on specific votes would give it a solid majority, with ~455 (theoretical) seats versus 361 needed. Moreover, Nordic countries bucked the trend, with a strong showing of the Greens and Socialists in Sweden and Denmark. 

In Parliament, coalitions are not fixed but are rather created ad hoc for every policy issue, with decisions based on an absolute majority.

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